Jean de La Fontaine: Selected Fables

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Authors
Betts, C. J. (translator,) (writer of introduction)
La Fontaine, Jean de
Issue Date
2014
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Book, Whole
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Abstract
Here is a pleasing new translation of about half of La Fontaine's fables, together with some twenty-three of Gustave Doré's translations. Betts' introduction is helpful, giving a sense of La Fontaine's popularity and success with a significant chain of patrons and patronesses. Diversité, c'est ma devise, though apparently meant by La Fontaine to refer to his love life, characterizes well his poetry. Betts rightly emphasizes that a collection of fables like La Fontaine's -- by contrast with, say, the Pancatantra's connecting story -- needs diversity and surprise. Betts does well to warn readers not to expect to find La Fontaine's opinion through reading the fables. The one subject on which La Fontaine's fables may give a clear expression of the author's beliefs is poetry itself. Betts rightly sees the first fable, GA, as expressing well the service the artist performs in society. I notice a couple of surprising omissions: Norman Spector from the prominent translators and J.J. Grandville from the most important artists. The few rhyming fables I have read here impress me. A good example of a successful translation is, I believe, GA itself. I would say of it what Betts says of La Fontaine: not a word is wasted. The notes are helpful, and there is an AI at the back of the book. I would be tempted to use this for the study of La Fontaine in my next fable course. Might Oxford add a paperback version?
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Oxford University Press
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